Illumine Game Recap
How the Clue Works
Teams received three Russet potatoes and, once they found the shady potato dealer, a small red potato. All of the potatoes had symbols carved into them. These turned out to be upper-case Greek characters, cut in half either vertically or horizontally. The engravings were as follows:
Small Brown Potato:
Large Brown Potato 1:
Large Brown Potato 2:
Placed in the proper order, the message was "It stops a take", which is a simple riddle whose answer is "cut". Cutting open the shady potato, which was not like the others (preferably with something smaller than a wood saw), a small message wrapped in aluminum foil could be found.
The message inside the aluminum foil contained the answer, "Go to the Western Inn in Lakewood".
This puzzle started out as "something to do with potatoes". At some point I (Jamie) thought it would be really nifty to hide information inside the potatoes. A lot of the design work actually revolved around how to accomplish this without giving it away with obvious exterior evidence. Here are some ideas which were rejected:
So, time to playtest! I mark up a set of potatoes (time: 2 hours) and bring them in. The test squad looks at them, tries matching halves of Greek letters for a while, then someone says, "Hey, lets cut open the red potato!" -.- Needless to say, that was a pretty quick playtest which involved solving very little of the actual puzzle. We figured at least ONE team would try this in the actual Game. Also, in that version both upper and lower-case Greek letters were used. Yeah, so if you think the final version was hard...
Okay, playtest 2! I'm getting my technique down, so when I construct the next set (time: 1.5 hours) the symbols are a little easier to make out, plus they're all upper-case. The next test squad spends about an hour figuring out that the symbols are Greek letters, since of course most upper-case Greek letters look like our current alphabet. Clue bats were applied. Another hour goes by and they've solved the puzzle, this time not cutting open the red potato until they've actually solved the riddle. So that run-through only took a bit longer that it took for me to actually create the potatoes. We'll put this in the 'long puzzles' category...
Now all we need to do is make 14 sets of these, but we actually want extras so more like 18. And the potatoes are only good for so long, so we need to do them all in about the last week-and-a-half before the Game. I estimate that this will take 18 man-hours... I set up a time for a bunch of people to get together to carve potatoes, and about five people show up. We start with the easiest potato, "IT", which has only 3 symbols. It turns I'm an above average potato carver. We eventually get most of the "IT" potatoes carved, but with something like a 50% rejection rate. We'll never finish at this rate.
Fortunately, at this point someone, Scott or Erik, has the bright idea to make some sort of stencil to ease the pain of carving. The two of them head off to Home Depot before they close to look for ideas. They come back with a crappy wooden plank, a roll of metal duct strapping, and a tube of epoxy. We cut the strapping down the middle, bend it into the shape of half-Greek letters, and epoxy them to the board. After ten minutes the epoxy has mostly hardened and our patent-pending Half-Greek Symbol Potato Jig (TM) goes to work! Simply slam the potato down on your symbol of choice and, voila!, a consistently carved potato.
If the damn pieces hadn't been so prone to breaking off the board and sticking in the potatoes it would have been a cakewalk.
Charles, Paul, and I (Jamie) arrived at the market around 1:30 AM, if I recall correctly. Hoop was already there, and was just settling down for a nap in his car when we arrived and woke him up. We walked around for a while and looked at the tower (which I had never seen before), then headed to the market to figure out where we would set up. Charles, Paul, and I sort of ended up in a line of stalls not quite facing Hoop's hiding spot.
I made a bit of a spur of the moment decision regarding how exactly we would interact with the teams. I told the other two non-shady dealers to really over-emphasize "No half-formed symbols" and to pretend we really couldn't see them. We also of course needed to indicate the presence of the shady dealer, which we did by warning teams about a shady dealer about whom they should avoid.
We had just finished unpacking the potatoes when we noticed a large-ish racoon sniffing around. In the stall right next to me was a plastic bag full of trash. Naturally, the racoon finds the bag and starts rummaging through it, about 10 feet away from me. Now, I'm not really too concerned about being attacked by the racoon or anything like that, but I am afraid that I'm going to turn my back and find a potato missing. And, well, I wasn't so unconcerned about being attacked that I was about to press the issue. Fortunately, at this point the first teams started arriving, and the racoon was scared off.
In general, a team or group of teams would arrive, and we'd start hawking our wares. They would run up, gather in a bunch in front of one of the stalls, and attempt to inspect the potatoes. I would not let them touch more than one at a time, mostly because I didn't want them running off with two. One challenge many teams seemed to have a problem with was "taking a potato". Often times we practically had to shove the potatoes in their hands. One or two teams even put their's back... It was already a bit hard to keep track of which teams had taken a potato already, but having them come back was a real pain in the arse.
Teams would often come back to us and attempt to get information from us. We had some nice conversations regarding Orbital Mind-Control Lasers and whether we had seen any UFO's around.
The teams tended to arrive in waves. Between waves our main task was staying awake. Hoop would venture out of his shadows and come talk to us. During one particularly long lull in the action Hoop laid down on a stall right next to ours and fell asleep. At this point team (I believe) Orange comes up to us (finally) looking for the shady dealer. So Paul starts nudging Hoop and says to the team, "Sometimes shady dealers get tired and they need to take a nap." We also discovered that potato jokes are very funny at 4 a.m.
The night drags on...
The sky starts to brighten...
At 6:30 a truck pulls up to the market and starts unloading produce. Two teams still haven't arrived. We move our operation to just outside the front door of the market. There are two white plastic picnic tables on either side of the door. Charles, Paul, and I stand behind the one on the right, Hoop stands behind the one on the left. The second-to-last team arrives, we do our speil about half-formed symbols and beware of the shady dealer, give them our three brown potatoes, and Hoop (who is 10 feet away), has to run up to the van to give them a potato before they drive away.
The last team arrives and gets all four potatoes. I notice that the trashcan right behind us has a large number of potato halves. We leave at about 7 a.m.